The Wedding

West, Dorothy. The Wedding. Read by Robin Miles. Books on Tape, 2021.

Reason read: February was the month Massachusetts became a state. The Wedding takes place on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.

Dorothy West is a master of character development. Every member of the Martha’s Vineyard Oval community is meticulously realized by their actions and reactions to events surrounding them and by the subservient relationships they keep: black and white, man and wife, neighbor and stranger, parent and child, landlord and tenant. Strangely enough, there is harmony in the contrasts.
It is the wedding of beautiful Shelby Coles. Her engagement to a white jazz musician from New York City has her family in turmoil. Lute McNeil would like nothing better than to steal Miss Coles for his own. He already has three young daughters by three different white women, but in his obsessive mind Shelby would make the perfect mother for his biracial children. Even though the Oval is comprised of black middle class residents, the question of belonging is pervasive. The standard assumption that blonde hair and blue eyes means white race. Everyone uses color to get what they want. Example: the preacher uses the image of white children in danger of hurting themselves around a derelict barn in order to get a white man to give him a horse that was of no use to him. The preacher is really after the barn wood.
Dorothy West forces her characters to face the question of identity. The end of The Wedding will leave you hanging. Would Shelby have given Lute a chance if tragedy had not intervened? Were Shelby’s sisters right in their warnings about misguided infatuation?

Author fact: Dorothy West was 85 years old when she wrote The Wedding.

Book trivia: West was known for her short stories. The Wedding is only one of two novels West wrote in her lifetime.

Playlist: “Swing Lo Sweet Chariot” and “Motherless Child”.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Wedding other than to indicate it takes place on Martha’s Vineyard.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Martha’s Vineyard” (p 141). No big stretch there.

Within a Budding Grove

Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past: Within a Budding Grove. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Chatto & Windus, 1966.

Reason read: to continue the series.

If you remember from Proust’s first volume of Remembrance of Things Past our narrator was looking back on his childhood. Now he is thinking back to when he was a young adult; the coming of age stage of life. This time he has a sweetheart named Gilberte, the daughter of M. Swann, and he still has a singular attachment to his mother. Many of the same characters that were in the first installment are back in volume two, only now they are more refined due to their changing circumstances. Family relations change. Gilberte starts to drift away. The chase of Gilberte seemed endless. Twenty pages later and our narrator is still stalking her; looking for excuses to connect with her. The turning point was when he decides to play hard to get himself. The head game of renouncing Gilberte and then realizing this could backfire and he could lose her forever had a very modern feel to it.
Most of the drama takes place in the seaside town of Balbec or Normandy, France. There are times when Within a Budding Grove drags. Entire pages are dedicated to the description of ladies gowns. Society’s dedication to cordial formalities and the quest for the value of Beauty were tiresome. Questioning the possibilities of happiness or suffering seems an age-old topic. Only when the narrator was looking for intellectual distraction in a dinner conversation did I find the situation funny. To see what others had done with the carnation wrapped in silver paper was relatable.

Quotes I liked, “My father had always meant me to become a diplomat, and I could not endure the thought of that…” (p 13) and “There is perhaps nothing that gives us so strong an impression of the reality of the external world as the difference in the positions, relative to ourself, of even a quite unimportant person before we have not met him and after” (p 341).

Author fact: Marcel Proust’s books coined the phrase “romans-fleuves” as a way to describe them.

Book trivia: Within a Budding Grove is also called In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

Nancy said: Pearl does not say anything specific about Budding Grove.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Romans-Fleuves (p 208).

Dinner with Persephone

Storace, Patricia. Dinner with Persephone. Pantheon Books, 1996.

Reason read: January 6th is the Fest of Theofania celebrating the baptism of Christ and a celebration of a return to light.

I have always wanted to visit Greece. The landscapes, the weather, the food. Sigh. All of it has me spellbound. But. But! But, the more I read of Storace’s Dinner with Persephone, I am not sure about the culture. I definitely do not agree with some of the attitudes towards women and marriage. Women are inferior to men. Sexual condescension is a thing. The accepted violence of smacking a wife or daughter around and how it is glamorized in television and movies is concerning. There is an ambivalence towards arson, too which I found odd.
Beyond the confusing side of Greek culture, I enjoyed learning about the icons of the region: a blue eye talisman hanging from an old woman’s neck, the juicy red jewels of pomegranates, the fable of Dionysus and the plant. To be sure, there is a lot of religious talk in Dinner with Persephone. The people Storace talk with mention the Virgin Mary as if she is a next-door neighbor they bumped into while going for coffee. Children bring up events dating back to the Ottoman Empire as if it were yesterday. It is only a perception but it seems religion is worked into nearly every conversation.
There is a subtle, almost secretive sultriness to Storace’s writing. I can’t put my finger on why I think that. The language is tedious at times, but more often sensuous.

P.S. I have not given up on the food of Greece. There is this one dish I am dying to try: zucchini blossoms filled with feta cheese, egg, and fresh mint. Yum.

Quotes I liked, “As I travel here, I am losing the illusion that I know where I am” (p 156),

Author fact: Storace has published a book of poetry and has received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award for her work.

Book trivia: This would have been a fantastic book to include photographs. Sorry to say that there are none.

Playlist: “Kyrie Eleison”, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “Let’s Take a Walk on the Moon”, “Denial”, Mozart, Bach, Hayden, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn’s “Wedding Recessional”, Elton John, “This Land is Your Land”, “The Dream After the Dance”, “Roll Out the Barrel”, “Greece Will Never Die”, Katie Grey, Patsy Cline, and “Carmen Sylvia Waltz”.

Nancy said: Pearl called Dinner with Persephone an excellent choice.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Just So Much Greek To Me” (p 120).

Flying Carpet

Halliburton, Richard. The Flying Carpet. City Garden Publishing Company, Inc., 1932.

Reason read: Richard Halliburton celebrated a birthday in January. Read in his honor.

Richard Halliburton was a self-described vagabond of the clouds. In Flying Carpet he brings Moye Stephens Jr. along as pilot/captain and mechanic. Their journey takes them through the far reaches of North Africa and East Asia. They followed Alexander the Great’s path into Egypt, over Alexandria and through Babylon. They stop for a month or two in ever location and submerge themselves in the culture. Like on the island of Borneo, trying to impress the tribal chief with a plane ride. My favorite section was when they visited the Taj Mahal, calling it “the one perfect thing on earth.”
A tough portion of Halliburton’s memoir is his treatment of “Negros” and the buying of young slaves. He explained it away by saying his grandfathers were slave owners in Tennessee. He bought two ten year old children to wash dishes and fight the overpopulation of bats in Timbuctoo.
Halliburton seemed like a fun guy to hang out with. He brought a portable record player and liked to dance. He was bold enough to compete for the love of a woman with whom he could not communicate. He opted to live as a prisoner in Teheran “just to see” what it was like.
As an aside, Flying Carpet was the name of the plane Richard Halliburton flew.
As an another aside, I wonder what Halliburton would think of the traffic jams of Mount Everest today. In Halliburton’s time it was forbidden (“irresistible, unattained, and inviolate”). In 1920 Nepal and Tibet had staunchly refused foreigners. Only the Dalai Lama was able to allow English climbers to enter from the Tibetan side. That might have been the beginning of commercial tourism. Halliburton and Stephens were finally allowed to gain access to the airspace around Everest (at 18,000 feet) only because they impressed the Mararajah of Nepal.

Quotes to quote, “To my great annoyance and disappointment, he did not drown” (p 114), “Because it is monstrous, merciless, demanding the utmost of one’s energy and effort” (in answer to why climb Mount Everest), and “A head is a head, and its sex is of no consequence when it has been dried and smoked, and hangs from a ceiling at home” (p 327).

Author fact: I am reading five of Halliburton’s books. I cannot wait to learn more about this fascinating adventurer!

Book trivia: The Flying Carpet includes a few photographs of Stephens and Halliburton’s journey. While there are very many, they are cool.

Playlist: “Happy Days were Here Again”, Ravel’s “Bolero”, “St. Louis Blues,” Schubert’s Serenade “Song of India”, Hymn to the Sun – Coq d’Or, “Barnacle Bill the Sailor”, “Falling in Love Again”, “St. Louis Blues”, and “What Good Am I Without You?”

Nancy said: Pearl called Halliburton’s style of writing “you-are-there” prose. I agree completely.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Where in the World Do These Books Belong?” (p 260).

Fearless Jones

Mosely, Walter. Fearless Jones. Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: Walter Mosely was born in the month of January. Read in his honor.

Paris Minton ingeniously builds his used bookstore from discards and sales from local libraries. For a Negro to own his business in 1950s Watts, California, Minton knows he is an anomaly. What he also is, is unlucky. Soon after a beautiful woman in distress hides in his bookstore he is badly beaten and his store, burned to the ground. Who was the impossibly beautiful woman? Who would want to burn down his store and do that has anything to do with the men who beat him? There is only one thing to do, bail his good friend Fearless Jones out of prison and enlist him to solve the mystery. As Minton tells the story he builds the character of Fearless Jones through their friendship, setting up the character development in future stories.
When you read Walter Mosely expect crackling humor, fast paced action, racial truths, and lots of quick-jab violence.
As an aside, one of the things I like about Walter Mosely’s writing is that his characters use the bathroom. Not many authors include the details of common bodily functions.

Lines I liked, “Being challenged by the law was a rite of passenger for any Negro who wanted to better himself or his situation” (p 4), “The best cop I ever saw was the cop who wasn’t there” (p 87), and “These were men who had lived with Satan before coming to God, and they were still willing to venture over to the wrong side of holiness if the situation demanded it” (p 227).

Author fact: I have twelve Mosely books on my Challenge list, including two nonfiction contributions.

Book trivia: Fearless Jones is the first book in the Fearless Jones series.

Setlist: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, and Pat Boone.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fearless Jones as part of the Fearless Jones series. She didn’t say anything beyond that about the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Walter Mosely: Too Good To Miss” (p 168).

Conversations Across America

Loya, Kari. Conversations Across America: a Father and Son, Alzheimer’s, and 300 Conversations Along the TransAmerican Bike Trail that Capture the Soul of America. XK Productions, 2022.

Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally review books. This was a December pick that I am just getting around to reading now.

Father and son embark on a 73 day, 4,200 mile adventure from Virginia to Oregon,
My favorite part in the entire book was when Kari’s life rolled by as if it were a memory from a movie.
From the moment I opened Conversations on my laptop I regretted not having the coffee table version Kari mentioned. Some of the landscape photography is absolutely gorgeous. However, here is what you need to know two-thirds of the book are photographs of ordinary people with their accompanying “stories.” Some of the stories are interesting or even heartfelt, but a great deal of them are exclamations about Merv’s age or the number of miles they are trying to bike. Wow is a common refrain.
My only detractor? The sheer volume of stories or conversations overshadowed the beauty of the father/son narrative. I tracked how many pages were dedicated to Loya’s personal journey compared to the pages of “conversations” and the ratio was 1:3. Additionally, the same “conversation” is in the narrative so I felt like I was reading the passages twice.
My favorite section of the book was the end where Loya included a partial list of the gear they carried, their itinerary of the different stages, and the half-time report about dogs and meals.

As an aside, were there really 2,000 filing cabinets? The bit about the trampoline was funny. I also felt Loya was a little judgmental about AT hikers. That’s acceptable if he has hiked the Appalachian Trail in its entity himself and can make a comparison based on his experiences.

Author fact: Kari was trying to sell his home in New Jersey while trying to bike across America with his father.

Book trivia: there is a ton of beautiful photography in Conversations.

Playlist: “New York” by Frank Sinatra, Chariots of Fire, Beach Boys, Def Leppard, Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, Quincy Jones, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Vivaldi, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jack Johnson (Hawaiian music).

Chair Yoga

Chapshaw. Chair Yoga: Gently Build Strength, Flexibility, Energy, and Mental Fitness in Just Two Weeks to Improve Your Quality of Life and Grow Old Gracefully. Chapshaw Publications, 2022.

Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing I am a member of the Early Review Program and I occasionally review books (mostly nonfiction). This is one such book.

Before I started reading Chair Yoga my mind was not really open to all of the different possibilities a chair could bring. I could only think of seating poses like neck rolls, ear to shoulder moves, and spinal twists. Starting with examples of elders who have used chairs in their yoga practice helped set the tone of the rest of the book. Further validation came in the form of illustrating more complicated poses like warriors one and two. Advice concerning different areas of ailment like osteoporosis. sciatica, and hypertension took Chair Yoga from a basic starter yoga book to a more solid reference.
Offhand comments: Can I just say this book had me at David Bowie? To open Chair Yoga with a quote from this musical legend was brilliant.
Maybe I am too biased on the subject of yoga, but I am not sure how anyone can think of yoga at any age as “too woo-woo”…whatever that means.
I am enamored with the idea of eight limbs of yoga. I think of an octopus every time.
It is a shame to say you don’t have to read chapter one and you need only to skim chapter two. Are you saying the words therein are pointless and not worth the reader’s time? Like any good syllabus, Chair Yoga maps out learning objectives for each chapter. There is even homework for assessment. While Chapter nine offers the two week plan read everything leading up to it. It is worth your while.

Book trivia: Illustrations to go with the text are helpful.

Vinland the Good

Shute, Nevil. Vinland the Good. William Morrow & Co, Inc. 1946.

Reason read: Shute’s birth and death month is January. Read in his honor and memory. I also needed a book for the Portland Reading Challenge. The category is a book that is under 150 pages long. Vinland the Good is 126 pages.

This is the historical fiction story of Leif Ericsson and his quest to discover new lands. Cleverly hidden in a history lesson at a boy’s boarding school, teacher Callender describes Leif’s life’s adventures. Callender is back after six years to teach U.S. History and finds a clever way to keep the students engaged despite the headmaster’s disapproval. [Spoiler: there is a section of the story where Leif warns Thorgunna to keep her ladies away from Leif’s men. It is hinted that Leif worries the men could rape the fair maidens. Thorgunna replies that Leif gives sound advice because her ladies have been without variety…]
Vinland the Good comes to us in the form of a treatment for a script as if Shute planned it as a movie or theater production. Stage directions and props describe each scene before narratives begin. Themes in Vinland the Good include forgiveness (when King Olaf lifts Leif’s stigma of being the son of an outlaw and teaches Leif the art of shipbuilding) and the spread of Christianity. You could also call Vinland the Good a tragic love story as Leif and Thorgunna’s relationship blossoms into love and loyalty.

Best quote, “LEIF (Heavily) Thorgunna, as one goes through life one has to make the best decisions that one can, and work on them” (p 70). Amen to that.

As an aside, I love any book that uses the word ‘gloaming’ in some manner.

Author fact: I have read five of the twenty four Nevil Shute books on my list. He has written a bunch more.

Book trivia: Even though a map is included on the free and pastedown endpapers, there are no other illustrations. Bummer.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Vinland the Good.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p).

Confessional: this doesn’t happen to me often. I am proud of the fact that my Book Lust Challenge is very organized. I would like to think I have every book cataloged; so it came as a shock to learn Vinland the Good was NOT cataloged in LibraryThing. It was in all of my spreadsheets (TwistList, MBL list, ToGo list, and Schedule list), but somehow I missed the most important place of all, LibraryThing.

Rum Diary

Thompson, Hunter S. The Rum Diary. Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Reason read: to celebrate Eugenio Maria de Hostos, philosopher who campaigned for education for women. His life is celebrated on the second Monday in January in Puerto Rico. Additionally, for the 2023 Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I needed a book with a person on the cover.

Paul Kemp, fresh in from New York, begins writing for the Daily News in San Juan. Throughout the entire Rum Diary he comes off as a bumbling and stumbling alcoholic cad who never really writes very much. He spends a great deal of time eating hamburgers at Al’s, chasing women, playing on the beach, getting into various troubles, and of course, drinking gallons of rum. Paul works off a tangle of conflicting emotions through an alcoholic haze. Rum on the island act as a currency.
Thompson’s portrait of Paul Kemp seems three quarters finished. Underneath the swagger and swaying, there lies a decent soul, but you never really understand Paul.
As as aside, I have never been to San Juan so I don’t know why this is a thing, but there seems to be a peculiar animosity towards stray dogs on the island.

Confessional: Reading Doug Stanhope’s Digging Up Mother at the same time as Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary was like a lesson in debauchery. Even though Stanhope’s memories were thirty years later than Thompson’s, the attitudes were much the same. Here’s another trivial similarity – Johnny Depp starred in Thompson’s movie. He also wrote the foreword for Digging Up Mother.

Best lines, “Arriving half-drunk in a foreign place is hard on the nerves” (p 12).

Author fact: Thompson is better known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Book trivia: Rum Diary was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Playlist: Braham’s Lullaby and “Maybellene”.

Nancy said: Rum Diary is an “exuberant” picture of the drinking life in Puerto Rico. She’s not wrong.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean (Puerto Rico)” (p 57).

Home is the Road

Glancy, Diane. Home is the Road: Wandering the Land, Shaping the Spirit. Broadleaf Books, 2022.

Reason read: this is an Early Review I couldn’t start until the holidays were over. Once I delved into it, I couldn’t put it down.
Glancy is a road warrior. Traveling by automobile is her thing. She can cover great distances in a single day. She should have been a long haul trucker. To pass the time she dreams while she is awake and aware. Kansas for a film festival. A conference in Arkansas. A book festival in Missouri. She travels to places where they even name the ditches. I believe Home is the Road was born in its entirety on such a journey. Glancy’s writing is akin to lyrical rap, spoken word, essays, poetry, scripture: all of it fragmented and in a storytelling language. Her imagery is astonishingly beautiful. Her reflections are jumbled. Like trying to mediate while the mind scatters thoughts like escaped marbles from a bag. She is discuss motherhood, fracking in West Texas, or Eminem as B-Rabbit, but the backbone to her tales is twofold – her profound religious beliefs and her heritage. Caught between two cultures, she never quite belongs to either.
Her migrant wanderings started when, as a small child, her father would transfer jobs and move the family from place to place. Her restlessness is deep rooted to the point where she is a loner, but never completely alone.
As an aside, when Glancy talked about depression at the end of a long-mile journey. Is it similar to the sadness I feel when ending a particularly difficult road race? After months and months of training and after the finish line has been crossed, I find myself asking now what, what’s next?
Another similarity: Glancy sees large trucks on the highway as herds of animals. I see the road as the ocean floor. Lots of traffic are schools of fish, all traveling in the same direction, darting in and out of lanes. Big double-rig trailers are whales slow on the incline and police cars are sharks, waiting to pounce. Cars waiting to join the flow are eels popping out of hiding places.

A last aside: I took the first and last sentences of Home is the Road just to see how they matched up: “My life began in travel – a wayfarer not on foot, but in a car. An act of disobedience (pages 3 and 209 respectively).

Author fact: As soon as Glancy started talking about making a movie I wanted to see what was produced and if it was possible to see it. I immediately went to IMDB and learned Glancy won an award for writer of the year for a screenplay, which is not the film she wrote about. in Home is the Road.

Playlist: “Amazing Grace”.

Brideshead Revisited

Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited: the Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. Everyman’s Library, 1993.

Reason read: Waugh was born in October; read in his memory.

Brideshead Revisited is twenty years in the life of Captain Charles Ryder and the relationships that sustained him. Friendships with the Flyte family and Brideshead Castle, the military, religion, romance. We learn early on that he compares his waning affection for the military to a marriage in the post-honeymoon phase. I found that to be a really interesting analogy.
I would compare Brideshead Revisited to a lazy river. There is no white water pulse pounding plot twists. Instead it is a pleasant, gentle read that meanders through Victorian life. I can see the reason for its popularity and the various made for television movies it spawned.

Line I liked, “He was the acid test of all these alloys” (p 9).

Author fact: Brideshead Revisited was Waugh’s most successful novel. It was made into a miniseries in 1981 and a movie in 2008.

Book trivia: Waugh made revisions in 1954 (the original was published in 1944). He was of two minds about Julia’s outburst about mortal sin and Lord Marchmain’s dying silioquy. Were they appropriate for the story?

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything about Brideshead Revisited in either chapter.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1940s” (p 177) and from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Oxford: Literary Fiction” (p 170).

Heartburn

Ephron, Nora. Heartburn. Pocketbooks, 1983.

Reason read: a Christmas gift to myself.

What do you do when you are seven months pregnant and you discover your second husband is having an affair? To make matters worse, you already have a handful in the form of a two year old named Sam. It’s complicated to say the least. Heartburn is fiction but it could be all true. Ephron based this fictional falling apart of a marriage on her own experiences with love gone awry. Told from the perspective of Rachel, a cookbook author who has discovered her husband is having an affair with someone in their social circle. Like all good gossips, everyone knows Thelma is having a fling with someone’s husband. They all take turns guessing until Rachel discovers it’s her Mark Thelma has been seeing. Heartburn is at once heartbreaking and hilarious. Rachel’s revenge is sweet and swift.

Lines I liked, He said it with the animation of a tree sloth” (p 87) and “Second of all, it means even a simple flat inquiry like “How’s Helen?” is taken amiss, since your friend always thinks that what you hope he’s going to say is “Dead.” ” (p 138).

Author fact: Ephron was better known for her romantic comedies, but she was also a journalist and novelist.

Book trivia: Heartburn contains fifteen recipes.

Playlist: Irving Berlin’s “Always”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nora is best known for Heartburn.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 5).

Clockers

Price, Richard. Clockers. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

Reason read: New Jersey became a state in December and I needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Dig down. Dig beneath the slang and bravado and you will find a gritty story about two very different human beings trying to survive the poverty stricken streets of New Jersey and New York. Rocco Klein has been a homicide detective for too long. He has seen it all and maybe he is too jaded because, as of late, the drug deaths he encounters inch him closer and closer to a yawning apathy. It might be time to retire. That is, until he meets young, barely out of his teens, Victor Dunham. Victor seems to be too innocent to be readily and eagerly confessing to a murder. Klein knows better. Who is Vincent covering for? Could it be his always in trouble drug-dealing brother? The cat and mouse game cops and crook play makes for an adventure (albeit a little long).
As an aside: Clockers is code for drug runners. Cocaine dealers, to be more specific.

Great lines, “At least with enemies, you knew what they were right up front” (p 8),”But the coffee didn’t pour itself, so nothing had come of it” (p 40). Yup. I’ve had those days, too.

Author fact: Richard Price wrote the screenplay for The Color of Money.

Book trivia: Clockers was made into a movie in 1995 and directed by Spike Lee. Of course I have not seen it.

Playlist: Wilson Pickett’s “International Playboy”, the Impressions’ “It’s All Right”, Kool and the Gang, “Ninety-Nine and a Half Just Won’t Do”, “I Found a Love”, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, and “One Love”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Price’s novels are hard to define.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 129).

Salt

Kurlansky, Mark. Salt: a World History. Penguin Books, 2003.

Reason read: Mark Kurlansky was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.

Salt. Everyone loves salt. Some people even crave salt. After reading Kurlansky’s book on the subject I am better versed on all things salt. I am ready for a trivia game about salt. I now know salt is associated with fertility in some cultures and that Egyptians salted their mummies before burial. I know almost no geological area is without salt. Salt has been used as a currency. There is salt in gun powder. Salt is responsible for soy sauce’s humble beginnings. The difference between creating alcohol and a pickle is salt. I never thought about how salt is the only rock people willing eat in great quantities or how every fluid in the body contains some percentage of salt. I could go on and on. Kurlansky takes his readers on a historical journey through epic wars like the American Revolution, the Civil War and beyond, all the while keeping salt as the main ingredient. You will never look at a shaker of salt the same way again.

Author fact: I have six Kurlansky titles on my Challenge List. Salt is the penultimate book left to read.

Book trivia: Salt is a best seller and chock full of photographs and illustrations. There is one photograph of bamboo piping used to carry brine. At first glance the structure looked like a rickety old wooden roller coaster ride at Coney Island.

Nancy said: Pearl said “After reading Salt you’ll never take that not-so-simple condiment for granted again” (Book Lust p 141). She’s not wrong. Pearl says a bit more, but I’ll let you discover her humor on your own.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mark Kurlansky: Too Good To Miss” (p 141). This is the penultimate book on my Challenge list.

Black River

Ford, G.M. Black River. William Morris, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started last month in honor of New Jersey becoming a state.

This mystery continues to feature hard nosed Frank Corso. He’s a stoic reporter who happens to be a imposing tough guy. This time he is the only writer allowed into the courtroom during the murder trial of Nicholas Balagula, alleged gangster accused of killing 63 people. It’s the crime of the century in the form of faulty architecture of a hospital. At the same time, a murdered man is discovered buried in his truck by the side of a river. Is this murder related to Balagula’s trial and if so, how? The dead man was paying for his son’s expensive medical school on a blue collar salary. How? Was he on Balagula’s payroll? Corso only gets involved when his former lover, Meg Dougherty, has an accident so life threatening Corso doubts it was an accident at all. Someone wants Meg dead. All clues lead Corso back to Balagula in round about ways.

Author fact: the G. M. stands for Gerald Moody. I have to wonder if he is related to the Moody family in Maine. You know, the ones with famous diner?

Book trivia: You could walk around Corso’s world just by taking note of the real-life landmarks Ford uses: Elliott Bay, Bainbridge, 7th Madison, Portage Bay, Montlake Cut, Union Bay, Lake Washington

Playlist: Chopin, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Ricky Martin, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, and Barry Manilow.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Black River.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).